Family & Divorce Law
How much should you be paying in Child Maintenance? Knowing your options when separating
Child maintenance is an important part of a settlement following separation.
If you have children, part of your divorce settlement may include child maintenance. Recently, reality star Kim Kardashian and music artist Kanye West settled their divorce, with Kanye agreeing to provide $200,000 per month in child maintenance for their 4 children. Knowing your options when it comes to child maintenance is important when separating from your partner.
What is child maintenance
Child maintenance covers how the living costs of your child/children will be covered when they only live with one parent. Following a separation, in most cases the children will live with one parent while the other moves out into separate housing. A child maintenance arrangement must be made if your children are under the age of 16 (or under the age of 20 if they are still in full-time education).
Options for child maintenance
There are two ways in which child maintenance can be arranged, either through a private agreement or through the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
If arranging privately, nobody else needs to be involved but the parents. The agreement can be changed if circumstances change, for example if one of you were to lose your job. Both parents can decide the amount of the payments themselves, but you can use the Child Maintenance calculator to help if needed.
If you decide to use the CMS, you must first use the ‘Get help arranging child maintenance service’. This will give you information regarding your options for paying and receiving support for your child. After using this, if you would still like to go ahead with using the child maintenance service, you will be given a reference number to apply. The application will require different information depending on whether you are the parent with day-to-day care of the child or not. If you do not want your ex-partner to know your location, you can alert the CMS of this.
However, there are exceptions on when you do not have to pay child maintenance, for example if you do not have an income, are a full-time student or are in prison. The child maintenance service also cannot be used if you have an existing consent order approved by the court which is either less than a year old or was made before March 2003.
Payments can be made either directly between parents or by using the child maintenance service to collect and pass the payments on.
If you both choose to arrange for payments to be paid directly, you should agree how and when the payments will be made. The bank is also able to set up an account with a non-geographic sort code, should you not want the other parent to know where you are living.
If you opt to use the Child Maintenance Service to collect payments, they can be taken directly from the paying parent’s earnings, bank account or benefits/pension. When using this option, you do not need to have any contact with the other parent. Fees will be charged each time a payment is made or received, these include a 20% fee added to the payment for paying parents and a 4% fee which is taken off the payment for the receiving parent. The first payment is usually made within 12 weeks of applying.
It is important to know your options when it comes to child maintenance and look into making an agreement with your ex-partner in the most amicable way possible. The Child Maintenance Service are there to help and can provide useful tools such as the calculator to provide clarity on what you should be paying/receiving. In order to minimize your costs and avoid delays, you should research all options available to you and look to seeking an agreement which works in all parties’ interests.
Callie Nimki, Trainee Solicitor in the Family Team said:
“Checking the right amount of Child Maintenance you are entitled to pay or receive is an important part of separation when you have children. This will ensure that you are receiving and paying the correct payments which are fair to all parties involved”.